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A Crop with Cream
Peter King
November 22, 1999
The free-agent class of 2000 should be rich in talent. Though teams retain exclusive negotiating rights on their own free agents until Feb. 10, some clubs will have trouble squeezing that last star under the salary cap. Take the Cardinals, who already have three high-priced defenders under contract for next season: defensive tackle Eric Swann, defensive end Andre Wadsworth and corner-back Aeneas Williams. That means Arizona will be hard-pressed to pay another defensive stalwart, end Simeon Rice (above), the $6 million a year he's expected to command. Here are the top 10 players who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents after this year, with their ages at the start of the 2000 season.
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November 22, 1999

A Crop With Cream

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The free-agent class of 2000 should be rich in talent. Though teams retain exclusive negotiating rights on their own free agents until Feb. 10, some clubs will have trouble squeezing that last star under the salary cap. Take the Cardinals, who already have three high-priced defenders under contract for next season: defensive tackle Eric Swann, defensive end Andre Wadsworth and corner-back Aeneas Williams. That means Arizona will be hard-pressed to pay another defensive stalwart, end Simeon Rice (above), the $6 million a year he's expected to command. Here are the top 10 players who are eligible to become unrestricted free agents after this year, with their ages at the start of the 2000 season.

1. Simeon Rica, DE, Cardinals, 26—Leads league with 10 sacks, including five in last three games

2. Jon Runyan, T, Titans, 26—Tennessee will make re-signing this ornery drive-blocker with All-Pro potential a priority

3. Chuck Smith, DE, Falcons, 30—Though getting up in years, he's solid against run and pass

4. Norman Hand, DT, Chargers, 28—Best unheralded player in the league is key to San Diego's superb run defense

5. Tony Brackens, DE, Jaguars, 25—Benefiting from new scheme, he already has a career-high eight sacks

6. Robert Porcher, DE, Lions, 31—Three straight seasons with double-digit sacks; on pace for another with 7�

7. James Stewart, RB, Jaguars, 28—Browns covet Fred Taylor understudy who has run for 532 yards this year

8. Ruben Brown, G, Bills, 28—Some scouts love him; others think he's lazy. Easily the best guard available

9. Stephen Davis, RB, Redskins, 26—A 234-pounder who's ideal for a ball-control offense; leads league with 14 TDs

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